Manchester United vs Arsenal, FA cup 6th round: Three key player battles by Suhith
As much as the tactical side of things give us a great deal to look forward to ahead of the big kickoff, the player battles on the pitch will actually have a bigger say on which team comes out victorious at the end of 90 minutes. From that point of view, what are three player battles to look forward to in this intriguing FA cup 6th round clash between Manchester United and Arsenal at Old Trafford tonight?
Alexis Sanchez vs Antonio Valencia
On Manchester United’s right-hand-side, it will be an all South American battle between Chile’s Sanchez and Ecuador’s Valencia. Both are enjoying good seasons, albeit in contrasting circumstances. Sanchez leads the Arsenal attack week in and week out, reveling in his natural role as a winger. Valencia on the other hand, has excelled playing at right-back, adding defensive security to Manchester United’s backline.
Both these personnel are crucial to their side’s chances of winning tonight’s game and Sanchez, more than any other Arsenal player, holds the key to Arsenal defeating Manchester United at their own den. It will be interesting to see how Sanchez and Valencia mix their defensive and offensive duties, as they could have significant tracking back to do when their side defends.
Daley Blind vs Mesut Ozil
In the middle of Manchester United’s midfield, Blind will have his task cut out, as he will try to neutralize Ozil’s creative threat. The German is not playing as well as he can, after returning from his knee ligament injury only in February. Blind, on the other hand, has been consistent in everything he has done so far in his first season at Manchester United. His passing has been crisp and largely accurate; has been a reliable defensive midfielder, ahead of the backline and has chipped in with crucial goals in the Premier League.
Both these players missed the league fixture at the Emirates last November, and will be looking to prove their big match prowess by putting in a good performance tonight. Blind might not be able to render too much in an offensive sense, but he would have done a good job if he can keep Ozil under control.
Wayne Rooney vs Per Mertesacker
Rooney has this habit of scoring goals in big games, and he would want to live up to that reputation when his team faces Arsenal tonight, as he will battle it out with the tall and powerful German, Mertesacker. The Englishman is expected to lead the line for the Red Devils, and his duel with Mertesacker could prove crucial to Manchester United’s chances of winning against the Gunners tonight.
Rooney scored a beautifully chipped goal in the Premier League fixture at the Emirates, which came as a result of Arsenal committing all 11 men forward in search of an equalizer. Mertesacker was the man at fault, as he should have ensured that his team didn’t concede while going in search of that equalizer. Later today, it will be a resumption of that battle between Rooney and Mertesacker, and whoever wins this battle, will most probably earn a victory for their side.
Manchester United’s trio of Valencia, Blind and Rooney must win these individual player battles against their Arsenal counterparts, as Sanchez and Ozil, in particular, are capable of winning the game for the Gunners if they get the better of their respective battles against Valencia and Blind.
A guest post by Suhith Kumar from ManUnitedOnly.com